Step In. The Classroom Door Is Open.

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After months of struggle trying to gather the courage to get this blog started, the moment has come. It has been a long winter, full of foggy mornings and stormy nights, which matched my mood and made it altogether fascinating, uncertain and overwhelming. But spring has come and I feel it is the best time of the year to start.

I’m bilingual and I have taught English for more than 18 years now. But I must confess that I have never felt that I fit in the role of the traditional teacher of languages. I admit to not knowing the meaning of every single word that my students ask, or why it turns out that certain grammar “mistake” appears to be commonly used in certain contexts. I don’t blush. Language usage can be just as fascinating as it is mysterious. Still, I think I make a fairly reasonable teacher regards content knowledge and I’ve grown to feel comfortable looking up the doubts with my students in class whenever they came up.

I don’t enjoy tests, but I am aware of the role they play in the learning process of my students so I try to grade and give feedback as accurately as possible. Ironically, when my students fail, I might also feel disheartened when all they worry about is the number they get at the top of the page. They may feel they have failed, but so do I when I didn’t manage to help them understand that knowing how to perform after the test is just as important as the result itself.

Truth is, I have always felt that I performed better as a coach. And what worries me is letting them down, sounding unrealistic or, incoherent. Much as I try to inspire the joy of learning and how rewarding it is, I know it does not only happen just because you want to. It takes patience and time. Adult language learners, for instance, often have to make a huge effort to get out of their comfort zone and embrace a new learning opportunity, which they have probably never tried before. 

That’s why being a “coach” makes it easier sometimes, because teaching is a challenging job, indeed. It requires more than content knowledge, and I reckon anyone who has ever taught can relate to this. It involves emotions. One of my own experiences to prove this is that sometimes I will say in class something perfectly reasonable like “Just practice, go out there and speak! Listen! Read! Seek every opportunity !” It sounds a little bit like “carpe diem”, doesn’t it? Yet, as we know, not everybody has a natural push for seizing the day. Nowadays, with all the information overload, there are terabytes of opportunities to take. But what to choose? I have somehow always perceived that they were being left alone in the middle of a jungle of words, discourse and accents. So, is it enough for a teacher to propose a limited list of resources and sites for them to practice? Will that make shy students have a chance to improve their skills at all? I wonder if it would make a difference if they were trained how to exlpore the web to create opportunities based on their own interests.

On top of that, I made this wonderful discovery, which is the joy of learning again myself. I’m just starting to grasp the amazing potential of web 2.0 tools and social media. Promoting cooperation among peers is easier now than it has ever been before, and reaches further beyond the classroom walls, which is motivating, fun and I hope it proves to be be effective. Now that there is a whole wide world out there to learn from, I am looking forward to exploring the tools and digital contexts that will boost my student’s communicative skills and mill make learning happen. Will it make sense for them to create their own PLN? How can blogging improve their language skills? Which tools and new forms of discourse or audiovisuals can be used in the classroom? And why? It seems that education technology has developped to a point that we may experience positive outcomes more quickly. But is this always true?

With this blog I intend to open doors and make my work visible, too, just as I intend to open the doors of my classroom so my students have the chance to connect and challenge their language skills outside.

Experiences, tools, discoveries, success stories and fiascos. Challenges and doubts. That is what it is all about.

 
photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc